Six Reasons Why Group Travel Is (Usually) The Best Choice For Adoptees and Their Loved Ones

Does group travel conjure up pictures of little old ladies on a bus?  Are you worried that you will lose your flexibility?  Are you saying “I just can’t see us being part of a group tour”?

If so, you’re not alone. Most adoptees and loved ones recoil at the idea of group travel. However, for a unique set of reasons and experiences, group heritage travel is most often best for adoptees and those supporting them while traveling. Here’s why…

  1. Community: It’s not just that those traveling all have a big life experience – being adopted or being a member of the adoption community – in common. It’s that when adoptees and their loved ones travel together in a group, the others in the group “just get it.” There’s no judgment, no unease, and no raised eyebrows as adoptees and their loved ones dive into their stories and challenging topics. Almost instantly, a safe place is created that says “I get you.” This allows for guards to be dropped and everyone gets to be themselves, vulnerabilities and all. With ease, adoptees and their loved ones share and learn, laugh, and cry.

As if that’s not enough, the group embarks on great adventures together! We explore the culture, food, sports, people, and places significant to adoption. In Guatemala, we zipline and kayak together. In China we walk the Great Wall together. Adoptees feel safe, which gives them permission to be interested, engaged, and enthusiastic for all the adventures ahead.

By the end, the group becomes a wonderful support for each other, a rock solid community that goes well beyond the end of the trip, ensuring lifelong friendship (and in a few cases even marriages!).

  1. Adoptees have an unquestioned membership in a group where they belong (some for the first time): Ties staff has long said that there is really no way to overstate the importance of adoptees and their loved ones traveling with other adoptees and their loved ones on this particular journey. So instead of trying to do it myself, I’ll let adoptees who have traveled with us recently share it in their own words. 

“What was really transformative about the experience was sharing it with the other adoptees. I’ve always felt like no one could understand what it’s like to be a Guatemalan adoptee, but after meeting the others, I feel like I belong.” – Isaac, 2023 Guatemalan Ties Participant 

As expressed by a Korean adoptee who shared their profound experience on a Korean Ties heritage trip, “I was able to connect with people who have such different experiences, but similar feelings.”

“Traveling with other adoptees creates a special environment where we can all connect over shared experiences and backgrounds, validating different facets of our identities in ways that might be new, especially if we didn’t grow up around other adoptees. Being together can also challenge stereotypes and preconceptions we’ve faced, helping us see adoption as a diverse and complex journey.” – Autumn Ackerson, 2014 China Ties Participant and current China Ties Program Coordinator

Belonging, connection, validation – these are the base for positive self-identity. If those aren’t enough of a reason, I don’t know what is! 

  1. Group Activities/Access: Sure, there are things you can do as a private traveler that are more challenging to do in a group. But at Ties, we work hard for you to have these individual experiences while also being a part of a group.

Individual experiences that are more challenging to have in a group setting are generally one-on-one experiences designed to build connections with locals. At Ties we build in time for these individual, one-on-one experiences, so you have the best of both worlds. Our staff works hard to ensure adoptees and their loved ones on our trips have experiences that are as unique as they are. For some this might include a side trip to the orphanage they spent time in, a visit with a foster family or caregiver, even time with family of origin. Other times this is a tea ceremony, having dinner in a host family’s home, or speaking with a birth mother about her experiences.

Also, there are group experiences that you can’t have as private travelers. In Guatemala we visit an after school program, where local children perform traditional dances. You can’t have that experience as an individual (and if you tried, it would be very expensive). In Korea, our groups go to baseball games…baseball is always better with friends! Sure you could visit China’s Forbidden City or Tiananmen Square as an individual, but how are you going to know who the very best guide is? The one that will tell you the little hidden symbols and the stories behind all the rooms? We know, so you don’t have to.

  1. Those traveling tend to be WONDERFUL: It’s not uncommon to see a group of adoptees meandering around a hotel together. Or a group of loved ones sharing a meal or drinks together. Or groups of adoptees and loved ones exploring the sights together. Laughter and fun on the buses abound because the people you travel with us are just as incredible as you are!
  1. Ease of plans…We take care of the details! How do you get from the airport to the hotel? Which areas of town are safe to stay in? Where can you eat and (most likely) not get sick? Can you drink the water? What do you pack? You found your birth family and they want to meet, what do you do next? All these questions can be daunting, but we’re here to help!

Our staff takes care of all these details on both our private and group trips, but with group trips there are far less questions for you to answer, because over the last 30 years we’ve perfected the itinerary and planning process.

And when there is a hiccup? Our staff has a plan b, and a plan c…and we’re often implementing plan d without travelers knowing that there was even an issue.

As one adoptive mom recently remarked, “The staff took care of every critical detail to ensure the logistics were smooth as we visited beautiful parts of the geographically and culturally rich terrain. And they provided a safe and caring space for navigating all types of emotions, for adoptees and parents alike.”

  1. Help available 24/7: Ties staff the group trips not just with tour guides, but experts in adoption, often adoptees, who know the challenges adoptees and their loved ones face. So not only can we give you antidiarrheals when your stomach is acting up, or know where the best health clinics in the area are (if you need one, which is rare!), but when you’ve learned something new about your adoption and are processing your feelings at 10 p.m. and need someone to talk to, our staff is there.

All this being said, sometimes private travel or semi-private travel are the best choice for an adoptee and their loved ones. For more on this, check out our companion post, When Private Travel Is Right.

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